16 Reasons Why Traditional Stock Agencies and their Websites Suck

It’s true and it happens; it was only a matter of time. Both the largest stock photography sites and stock photographers seem to have their heads in the sand these days. After all, who hasn’t seen one of their cookie cutter images portraying unrealistic scenarios? Are we supposed to relate to these? As social networking grows, so too does the consensus that we don’t give a shit about idealistic scenarios – those were part of the sexist ads from the 50s. You’ve all seen or heard of Mad Men, right? Advertising is a bit different than appealing to gender roles these days. Conformity isn’t cool – rebellion is all the rage (and really, isn’t that the basis behind the entire hipster phase?)

So, we as a society are all about the individual. Facebook is all about me, and you know what? It’s fantastic! We’re celebrating ourselves as an individual. We promote ourselves as individuals. Can I personally relate to half of the ads I see in print? No, in fact I am so hyper aware of what they are trying to do and trying to sell that the majority of the time I, personally, critique them. Oh, look at her, I know she looks pretty but because of a funny thing such as Google and trending articles I know exactly how much Photoshop went into that.

Traditional stock photography is very much the same. Their content is based on outdated ideals of advertising whilst simultaneously forgetting the individual and the fact that the majority of, everything really, is online. Magazines are replaced with personal blogs, Tumblr, Twitter, websites, giffs, YouTube – absolutely everything on the Internet completely negates the point of print and the stereotypical photographs used in its advertising. Why? Why not? On a webpage you can have a thousand different images and videos and imbedded audio.

WordPress alone has had over 74 million installs. Websites have cropped up all over for the sole purpose of entertaining us. The funniest thing about those websites? Their word count is usually less than five hundred and it is mostly taken up with images, giffs, and videos. Need an example? Distractify, Buzzfeed, 9GAG are some examples but there are thousands out there and they have a massive amount of traffic every single day.

So with this in mind, traditional themes for stock photography seem silly!  Here are 16 instances of how dated and tired looking images are targeted at old school ad agencies and marketing departments than the new world of bloggers and publishers.

  1. Photos of men wearing expensive suits and ties – lets get real here, even high end law firms are heading the casual dress route.
  2. Every worker is smiling and happy – sure everyone has seen the stereotypical smiling attractive office workers – ON TV – but does this really represent reality? Do we really need to live in an idealistic world? Everyone can be a journalist these days and everyone wants to expose some sort of truth.
  3. Lack of home offices – yep every home office worker dresses up in a suit and has a tidy office – NOT!  I am writing this article in my home office with 3 monitors, computers on the floor, books and papers everywhere, wearing yesterday’s t-shirt and track pants.  Total mess and totally casual.  When was the last time I wore a suit? Better question is would it even fit!
  4. Lack of stay at home caregivers images – care givers both to children and elderly in realistic scenes.
  5. Elderly that are all healthy and happy – yes typical ad agencies want to ‘sell’ or ‘project’ that every elderly person is happy and in good hands and good health – that is what they study in marketing 101 but that is not the reality that millions of bloggers want to depict. You want you, you want the reality you relate to. Why else would all of those useless quizzes on your personality trend so often?
  6. Overkill on people shaking hands and giving out business cards – I know people still give out business cards and shake hands, but enough already – we have millions of these images – people don’t even give out cards any more.  Who wants to manually type in the info into their computers – OLD SCHOOL RIGHT? We’re the now generation, not the then generation.
  7. Businesswomen in low cut dresses and high heels – is free love and 1970’s TV shows making a comeback?
  8. Models looking straight at the camera – Hollywood doesn’t even do it so why do stock photographers?
  9. Shooting models from above – makes them seem lower in stature – because we all want to be tiny, squished people.
  10. Business documents all contain graphs, charts or financial data – what company pays for pretty charts and graphs on paper – are we still in the 1950’s? This one seems pretty silly, especially when Google is out there making Google Glass and eye contacts than can take pictures. Or perhaps the paper than can contain data? There was a finished idea of one of those in Dollhouseand that was four years ago. If you’re going to be inaccurate, at least be progressive.
  11. Crowds of people looking at a computer monitor and smiling – for one I am not even sure what situation in a workplace would have people gather around another employees desk, and second, social media has replaced any sharing of information in this manner.
  12. People holding large blank white cards – because every sorry sailor out there has the shit job of waving a board declaring SALE in front of a mattress warehouse.
  13. Every doctor and nurse has stethoscopes. Is this realistic? Or, let me reiterate, how many times do the doctors in film and television are stethoscopes? Anyone seen House?
  14. People of mixed ethnicity – if you were an alien and viewed the world through samples of stock images you would think 95% of humans were Caucasian.  Well we all know that is far from the truth so why are there so few stock images that portray this?  The largest cities around the world, from London to New York to Toronto and onward are largely populated by mixed ethnicities.
  15. People of mixed Religion – despite movements to reduce the prominence of religion, its still a major aspect to a large portion of the world’s population. And no, I don’t mean in your face look at all these religions in one picture world peace ftw in every image, but there should at least be options.
  16. Gay lifestyle – the trend in Hollywood is to portray gay lifestyle as mainstream – marketing and stock imagery needs to follow this trend.

Has anyone seen the Debenhams Department store marketing? If not, here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/11/debenhams-look-book-diversity_n_3064148.html  That’s what stock photography needs to aim for. (And guess what? That article was trending too)

Although the comments are aimed at both stock agencies and photographers, it’s these stock photography sites that seem to dictate what can and cannot be accepted into their websites.  Many of the largest stock photography sites are arrogant enough to actually think they KNOW what images you should take.  If a photographer submits images that do not fit into the fold of what they THINK is good stock photography, they reject it. Talk about good old peer pressure, no?


Old school stock agencies suffer from outdated images and VERY expensive pricing.  Can a blogger afford that? God no. And yet you have to have the license to use images.  Those websites I was talking about before? Buzzfeed and the like? Underneath each image you will see which website they retrieved the image from, and most of the time, yes, it is from a stock photography website. The problem? Just think of how much traffic a website like Buzzfeed gets every day. They can afford to use expensive subscriptions. Can everyone? No.

One of the newer agencies that seem to be bucking the trend is Kozzi Images.  First on the price front, Kozzi can’t be beaten.  With subscriptions starting at $14.95 per month for 5 images per day – and Images On Demand with the Kozzi Photo Club – images cost only $0.50 for web size images and $1.00 for all other sizes including vector EPS files.  On the image content issue, Kozzi has been encouraging ‘out of the box’ thinking from tens of thousands of talented photographers that contribute to Kozzi, since day one.

Kozzi is also has one of the largest private collections of images in the world and produces thousands of images per week of exclusive content, created by in-house photographers and artists.  The reason I mention this site is because Kozzi strives to produce content that is unique and useful and addresses many of the issues mentioned above.

In these days the last thing you want is to be tangled up in any sort of legal infraction involving copyright infringement. Especially as your webpage or blog gets more traffic, and more people start to notice (I’m keeping my fingers crossed for all of you who haven’t broken through the mold yet) it’s vital to have the license to the images you use. So unless you have the recourses and time to produce the images on your website yourself, it’s pretty standard to go to a stock photography site.  So, with the exception of Kozzi, it seems bloggers and stock photographers are at an impasse.

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